Sustaining your firewood operation depends on how well you manage your harvest.
Since your firewood operation is up and running, let’s discuss how to keep the momentum going. For small lot owners especially, the challenge may lie in sustainability. It’s fine to have an ample supply; however, a woodlot owner needs to look toward the future.
Trees grown for firewood come to harvest in approximately 5-6 years. With the right management, a small woodlot can provide a sustainable firewood source as the value of the crop trees increases. Trees grown for timber are prime for harvest in as short as 25 years and as long as 60 years in some cases.
When figuring what and how much you have especially with large amounts of acreage, it is best to contact your local conservation department or extension agent. These organizations may have maps or aerial photographs of your woodlot to better assess the inventory. From that point, most experts recommend keeping a cord tally – the amount of wood in your lot.
The cord tally – measured in cords (four feet high by four feet wide by eight feet long) – for firewood averages near 85 cubic feet.
Veneer: Mature, high-quality trees can be processed into thin layers of wood that are used for quality furniture and plywood. Veneer trees will usually yield several times more value than trees of lower quality.
Lumber, Pulp & Fiber: Lesser quality trees can be grown for lumber, plywood or posts. Some species can be harvested for pulpwood to meet growing demand for paper products.
Removing firewood from a mature timber stand prior to harvest requires more care than a post-harvest operation. Marketable “crop” trees that will be sold for timber at future harvests must be identified so they will not be damaged when other trees are removed. Trees to be removed for firewood include those with crooked, dead, partially rotten, diseased and small stems as well as those of undesirable species. Although access throughout the stand is generally easier before harvest than after, available firewood volume can be much less, and its removal without damaging crop trees can be difficult. A well-done preharvest firewood cutting can reduce logging costs and enhance the appearance and perhaps the harvest value of the remaining stand.
“Managing Your Woodlot for Firewood” Dave Marcouiller, Assistant Extension Forester Steven Anderson, Extension Forester, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service “Cutting and Selling Timber From Your Farm Woodlot,” Dean Solomon, District Extension Leader, Michigan State University Extension
- Choose an area that is representative of where you will be getting firewood.
- Pick and mark a point to begin your measurements.
- Measure a distance of 37 feet (using a rope or tape) from the point out. Repeat this procedure several times until you have created an imaginary circle around your point. This circle will be 74 feet in diameter and will represent 1/10th of an acre (one acre equals 43,560 square feet).
- Measure the diameter (at 4.5 feet above the ground) of each tree that you would harvest for firewood that is within the circle.
- Refer to the table to tell you approximately how much each tree will yield in cords.
- Add the yield of each tree to get a total volume in the sample circle.
- Multiply the total by 10. This will give you the volume of firewood available on a per acre basis.
- Repeat the procedure on a number of different plots to give you an average amount available.
- The table can also be used to keep a running tally of how much you’re cutting rather than waiting until the wood is all stacked.
In a representative sample plot (74 foot diameter circle) you count the following.
- 3 trees 5” diameter (3 x .02 cords/tree) = .06 cords
- 2 trees 8” diameter (2 x .12 cords/tree) = .24 cords
- 1 tree 10” diameter (1 x .21 cords/tree) = .21 cords
- 1 tree 12” diameter (1 x .30 cords/tree) = .30 cords
- 7 trees TOTAL = .81 cords
- Firewood available per acre = 10 x .81 cords = 8.1cords per acre.
Source: University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension
Read more: Making the Cut